Despite a warning that Nestle Purina Pet Care Co. may cut jobs at its plant here if the City of Dunkirk raised its water rates, the Common Council approved the rate hike at a special meeting that followed a public hearing Tuesday evening.
"Their costs increase and ours do, too," Council Chairman James Muscato said.
During the public hearing, plant manager Ron Bowers said the water rate hikes could make the plant lose its competitive edge.
Bowers handed out packages of treats for dogs that are produced at the plant.
"These types of treats are produced at two locations in North America: Clinton, Iowa, and Dunkirk," said Bowers.
Bowers noted that the new rate of $2.75 per 1,000 gallons will make the water substantially more expensive than the rate paid in Iowa, where the company is charged $1.99 per 1,000 gallons. The increase would cost the plant about $50,000 over the next year.
"We need a budget that doesn't target increases at businesses in the community who are working hard to create new jobs and economic growth," said Bowers.
Bowers said the plant has doubled its capacity for employment, going from about 250 positions to about 500 positions in the last five years. He said the treats are newer product lines and resulted in the addition of about 200 of the new positions.
He said plans for expansion would add even more products for distribution and could result in a 50 percent increase in jobs.
"We are very sympathetic to the costs of business, but we have to look out for our residents," said Councilman Richard Mackuch.
Customers who use city water but who are outside the city limits pay about 1.75 times the rate that city residents do.
The Council also approved the 2007 city budget Tuesday. The total general fund revenues are $13.4 million. The tax levy will be $4.45 million. The tax rate will hold the line at $15.88 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The total assessed valuation in the city is listed at $280.6 million.
Several budgetary transfers were approved to bring the final budget to a vote. The Council passed the measure unanimously, with Councilman Kevin Muldowney absent.